Nutrient-packed Hoppin’ John for anytime of the year

Those who know me will tell you that I love simple, wholesome food — or as I like to call it: clean eating. I also believe that the foundation of good health is a balanced and nutritious diet.

Now, for many people that may sound like following a “boring” diet. But trust me, if you allow yourself to experiment a little bit with different flavours you can combine exciting, delicious and nutrient-packed dishes.

To prove my point, here’s my take on the African-American dish called “Hoppin’ John”… but first a bit of background.

This simple dish, made with kale and black-eyed peas, goes back at least as far as 1841, when, according to folklore, it was hawked in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina by a crippled beggar who was known as Hoppin’ John.

I first heard about Hoppin’ John from an American friend who told me that on New Year’s Eve, at the stroke of midnight, her family toasts good luck with a glass of champagne and a bowl of Hoppin’ John. In one of the bowls, among the black-eyed peas, a coin is buried and whoever gets the coin in his or her portion are sure to enjoy good fortune throughout the New Year.

If you eat leftover Hoppin’ John the day after New Year’s Day, then the name changes to Skippin’ Jenny. Eating a bowl of Skippin’ Jenny is believed to even better your chances for a prosperous New Year!

Folklore and tradition aside, Hoppin’ John is packed with wholesome nutrients. That’s because the ivory-coloured black-eyed peas are rich in protein and are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals like thiamine, vitamin A, folate, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper.

Instead of using collard greens, I prefer to add kale (another superfood) and fennel.

This recipe serves 2 to 4.


  • 500g dry black-eyed peas
  • 500g kale (two standard-sized cups)
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • 200ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 large fennel bulb (diced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Sea salt to taste


  • 250g bacon lardons


Soak the black-eyed peas in cold water overnight. Alternatively, you can “quick-soak” the peas by bringing the water to a boil for 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse.

Remove the hard storks from the kale, keeping only the curly leaves.

Heat the coconut oil in a skillet and add the black-eyed peas, garlic and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer while stirring occasionally.

Once heated through, add the kale, red pepper, fennel and bacon lardons. Season with salt to taste.

Add the vegetable or chicken stock. Stir well and cover.

Allow to slowly simmer for at least 30 minutes or until the black-eyed peas soften and the liquid reduces quite a bit.

Reduce the heat. Allow to cool down and serve.


(Or should I say ‘Good Luck’!)

To a healthier life,

Thomas Smith